You know you need to get your company in front of more prospects. But traditional advertising campaigns are expensive and aren’t guaranteed to work. You could go the social media route or pay influencers to talk about your business. But what you really want is for the right customers to find you without feeling like they’re being marketed to.
If you want to be seen without looking like you’re trying too hard, you require a strong search engine optimization strategy. That strategy should position your brand as the go-to source for a certain need or product. Then, to test whether it’s working, you have to study your results. Here are three key metrics to track to ensure your SEO strategy is headed in the right direction.
Organic Search Traffic
Organic search traffic consists of the number of visits to your site by people who discover it through an unpaid search engine link. In other words, Sally Googles the term “string cheese” and learns that your company sells delicious, sustainably manufactured string cheese in eco-friendly packaging. Because you have a well-designed SEO strategy, it’s easy for Sally (and Jose and Tanisha) to find your product.
Now Sally’s on your page, reading about — and hopefully also shopping for — your string cheese. The likelihood of conversion is higher (more on that later) because she already wanted string cheese when she got there. You didn’t have to create a desire or generate interest in your product because the organic interest was already there. And your organic visits continue going up because people like Sally keep finding you when they need a snack.
Technically, you could use pay-per-click (aka “paid search” or “sponsored search”) advertising to get yourself in those top search results fast. But PPC ads are expensive, and only work when you have them “turned on.”
Organic search results are a much better SEO strategy for landing on your customers’ radar. But to get them means consistently delivering high-quality content that’s relevant to prospective customers. To increase your organic search traffic, you need to bump up your visibility with well-chosen short- and long-tail keywords. You also have to appeal to search engine algorithms with more product reviews and by publishing great content both on and off your site.
Your keyword rankings measure your position on the search engine results page for a specific term. The more relevance your product or company has to the keyword a user searches, the higher up on the SERP you’ll appear. In other words, organic search traffic tells you how many Sallys (and Joses and Tanishas) are clicking on your links. Keyword rankings tell you how many lines down each of them scrolls to get to your product on the SERP.
Like organic search traffic, keyword rankings put you in front of a user who already wants a product like yours. Sally searches for “string cheese,” and if your rankings are good, you’ll be in the top five links she sees. But keyword rankings are always changing because search engines update their algorithms constantly. Staying on top requires constant monitoring, updating, and analyzing.
Lots of things can affect how well your site performs for a given keyword on a given search engine. These include small details like how well (and naturally) you use keywords and the quality of linked sources in your text. But big-picture elements like website design, page load speed, and — perhaps most importantly — highly engaging, authoritative content also matter.
Backlinks are links from other websites that direct users to your page and products. The more backlinks you have, the better — especially when they come from trusted sources like prominent bloggers or news sites. Backlinks tell you other people like your site or product and want to share it with their own reader base.
To understand how this works, imagine Sally is reading a post from her favorite mommy blogger about easy lunchbox snacks. Meanwhile, Tanisha is browsing CNN and stumbles upon an article about the health benefits of calcium from dairy products. Both of these pages include links to your company’s site, so Sally and Tanisha both click through to you. Congratulations! You’ve just landed two new potential customers.
Furthermore, the search engines are paying attention, and their algorithms see that more sites are linking to you. Not only that — the links are coming from authoritative sources that they know people really believe in. Now you’re not just getting clicks from people reading those specific pages and posts. You’re also showing up higher on the SERP because all the search engine algorithms like you.
Building your backlinks can be more challenging than meeting some other important SEO metrics. This is because you don’t have as much control over whether other people are talking about you or how much. But you can build up your backlinks by reaching out to other sites asking them to link or review you. You can also work with a digital marketing agency to secure backlinks on well-regarded sites. Or you can focus on publishing high-quality content that people naturally want to share.
These metrics are important, but you won’t get far with them if you lack a quality analytics tool. To ensure success with these and the many other metrics that determine SEO performance, you’ll need the right software.
From Google Analytics to HubSpot, Ahrefs to Semrush, there are myriad solutions that can measure all of these metrics and many more. A good tool should give granular visibility into the tiniest details, like each link or keyword. But it should also help you make big-picture decisions and predictions for your brand’s future.